Regional Profile: Current Employment Conditions
As of June 2012 the unemployment rate for the Fourth District stands at 7.6 percent. With a national unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, this represents the largest spread in unemployment rates in over a decade. Despite slowing declines in unemployment, on a year-over-year basis the Fourth District and national unemployment rates are down 1.3 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.
The median unemployment rate for the 169 counties within the Fourth District fell to 7.9 percent, a 0.3 percent decrease since March and a 1.9 percent decrease over the past 12 months. County-level unemployment rates ranged from a low of 4.5 percent in Mercer County, Ohio, to a high of 16.2 percent in Magoffin County, Kentucky. While the majority of Fourth District counties have unemployment rates below the national average and these have steadily declined over the past three months, 23.6 percent of all Fourth District counties have actually experienced increased unemployment rates since March.
County-level unemployment patterns tend to reflect statewide unemployment patterns. For example, as of June, the unemployment rates for states within the Fourth District were 7.2 percent for Ohio, 8.2 percent for Kentucky, 7.6 percent for Pennsylvania, and 7.0 percent for West Virginia. While there were significant differences in county unemployment rates, 44.6 percent of all Fourth District counties had an unemployment rate that was above the national rate. After peaking at over 77 percent in October of 2009, the share of counties with double-digit unemployment rates continues to steadily decline and is now at 19.5 percent, showing strong improvement over the past 12 months. Geographically, unemployment remains the highest in remote areas of Ohio and Kentucky, while rural Pennsylvania has maintained a stronger labor market.
The Fourth District civilian labor force has had a prolonged struggle to get back to pre-recession levels. Whereas the national civilian labor force has increased by nearly 1.0 percent since the recession began, the Fourth District labor force is now only 98.5 percent of what it was then. An aging population within the Fourth District is the likely contributor to this ongoing weakness in the labor force.